Better late than never? OK, so my Transformers Animated Slipstream costume has been finished for a while now (since early May), and if you’re an AddAltMode regular you’ll probably already have seen photos of the finished ensemble, which I wore for Free Comic Book Day and for Plymouth’s DevCon. But as a Cosblogger as well as a cosplayer, I do want to finish the work in progress story.
So this is the final chapter, which will look at the process of making the wings and jetpack, as well as painting and putting it all together. Big thanks to those of you’ve shared the ups and downs of this costume build journey with me. Honestly, your support and encouragement has meant a lot.
A recurring theme in my earlier posts from this series was me worrying about how to make the wings and putting off doing so as long as possible. I’ll confess it got to the stage where I’d run out of excuses: I’d made every single other piece (except the jetpack, which couldn’t be done until the wings were built as it needed to slot over them) and – this is how bad it got – I’d even painted them all, whereas usually I would wait until a costume was fully built and then paint en masse at the end.
Painting and lacquering
When I was painting my Arcee costume I was really lucky because Reeve’s “cobalt blue” acrylic was just the right shade, so I could use it straight out of the pot without needing to mix. Slipstream was harder (that is a recurring refrain for the costume); neither the teal nor the purple were quite the right shade ready mixed, so in the end for the teal I blended Reeves’ “viridian hue” with the leftover Arcee cobalt (always make use of leftovers!). For the purple I used Reeves “violet” acrylic, lightened with a small quantity of white.
The most important tip I can share with regards to mixing paint for a project like this is: decide how much of each colour you’re likely to need then mix at least double that quantity into a resealable tub. If you run out of paint halfway through a job it can be tricky to re-match colours exactly, so it’s sensible to mix way more than you think you’ll need at the start. And even then you’ll probably find you needed even more than you anticipated anyway. My mixes lasted me right through the initial paint job but I ended up having to mix more teal for touch ups after Free Comic Book Day.
I coated all my foam pieces with 2 coats of PVA glue to get a smooth, shiny surface then applied the acrylic once this was dry. 2-3 coats of acrylic was enough for this project for the large blocks of colour, then I added in the detail afterwards (such as the black outlines on the helmet and chest vents) using a fine-tipped paintbrush. To get the final shine I applied a coat of Baufix high gloss spray lacquer (which I obtained very cheaply from the mystery aisle in Lidl – a great source of random cosplay bargains!) The gloss stage was done outside because, man, that stuff is potent!
Once I’d run out of non-wings things to do on this project I heeded my own advice from the Cosplay Doldrums post and forced myself to get motivated by signing up for the Free Comic Book Day event, which gave me a very tight deadline by which to finish the costume. The thing that had been bothering me about the wings was how to make them portable enough that the costume could be stored and transported without trading off too much on size or stability. Ideally they’d need to fold in the middle or come apart.
B and I eventually decided that building them as one piece that folded was the way forward, since their size meant there would be quite a lot of pressure on the wings, so making them a fixed piece would hopefully ensure they had sufficient strength to survive getting worn and – inevitably – walked in to at conventions. So, having researched plastic hinges, we came up with a design where the wings would be hinged onto a backpiece that would also fold down the middle.
To enable this design to work we also made the executive decision to go with a slightly more G1 inspired ‘wider, flatter’ wing shape, rather than the more upward arc that Slipstream and Starscream’s wings have in the show. It’s significant that the TFA Starscream toy also adapts the wing silhouette in this way. I guess when you transfer a 2D design into the physical world it just makes more practical sense to provide as much support as possible for the central join of each wing, so a wider shape is preferable.
Also, I hoped hardcore Transformers fans would let me off if they did happen to notice the change because Geee Wuuun.
So… I’d originally planned to build my wings from the same high density foam I’d previously used for Arcee’s wings, but as Slipstream’s are larger and hinged I found that a slightly more rigid material was preferable. These wings are actually constructed from double-thick cardboard sheets stuck together and then covered in sticky-back plastic for extra support and to hide those telltale cardboard ridge lines! The central piece between the wings is rigid foam with a cardboard outer layer so that it’s comfortable against my back but still solid enough to support the wings. I added straps from an old rucksack so that this piece can be worn like a backpack.
I’m afraid I haven’t got step by step shots to accompany this build as I was really on the clock by this stage, but here are few that show it coming together
Now only one piece was missing…
I’m calling it a jetpack anyway as its shape and position remind me of one, though when Slipstream hovers in robot mode in TFA the thrusters are actually in her feet.
I really enjoyed making this piece as there are very few views of what it looks like in the show so I felt quite free to be quite creative. This is made from a cardboard back with foam added in a squarish tube shapes (these are hollow and extremely light). It’s just wider than the central piece of the wing pack, so it hides the hinges but still allows some movement back and forth. The vent details are just cut from foam and painted in freehand.
This piece secures to the “wing pack” by hooking over it at the top and velcroing in place at the bottom. Praise be for Velcro! If a world Velcro shortage is announced anytime soon it’s probably the fault of this costume. Sorry.
I’m happy with how the wings and jetpack look, and with their general solidity: they’ve survived two events now – and DevCon was both windy and crowded – so I must have done something right. But I’m sure the design of how they fold could have been better. One of the issues I’ve noticed is that the outer layer tends to rub against the wings and can damage the paint after a while, so minor repairs have been necessary. If I’d thought of that potential issue before I built them I would have modified the design slightly, but fortunately it’s nothing that a bit of paint can’t fix – and to be honest some wear and tear is to be expected with a bulky homemade costume like this.
And, that’s it! Thanks so much for coming along on this Slipstream
ride flight, it’s been a blast and I’m pretty proud of what I’ve achieved!
And because I’m an addict I’ve already started making plans and sourcing materials for the ooh mysterious next costume project, which looks set to involve a lot more sewing and painting but less foam and general bulkiness. More on that soon… stay tuned!